David - Vanderbilt University - Class of 2016
Hometown: Darnestown MD
High School: Private
GPA: 3.51 / 3.82 (weighted)
Goal: Become a doctor and serve my community
My college application process was an adventure to say the least. I survived denials, deferrals, and waitlists at my top choices, not to speak of submitting 17 college applications.
Grades are important, but they aren't everything
The weakest aspect of my college applications were my grades. In 10th grade I transferred to a private school from a public school. I enrolled in the most challenging courses possible and just didn't perform as well as I could have. On the bright side, I buckled down in my senior year, continued taking the most rigorous curriculum, and got straight A's. And my test scores were within or above the range for the schools I was applying to.
However, there was so much more to my application than my grades. Even though I came to my high school in 10th grade, I immediately got involved. I was student government president, cross-country team captain, and student director of my school's musical show band, among other activities. I wrote a passionate essay about my love of music and how playing piano helped guide me through my transition of schools and in other aspects of my life.
Deferral and waitlist agony!
I wanted a midsized university that had top-notch academics and a vibrant social life. I visited many schools, but ultimately I decided to apply early decision to Duke University. My father attended Duke for both undergraduate and law school, so I knew a lot about the university, and it was a school with a great reputation—both academically and socially. I was deferred, but I did not give up on Duke throughout the entire regular decision process. I sent e-mails and letters, made calls, and sent extra letters of recommendation. I did everything I could.
When the Duke decision arrived, I covered up the computer screen with my fingers, slowly moving them down to reveal each line of text. Rejected. Duke rejected me! The school I had wanted to go to ever since I was a kid, the school I had put so much effort into, rejected me. Then Vanderbilt, my second choice, waitlisted me. I was devastated. I was accepted at my third choice, Tufts, but I just couldn't believe that I wouldn't be able to attend one of my dream schools. So I didn't give up on Vanderbilt. I sent letters to the admissions office. I met with my regional Vanderbilt counselor. I pointed out that my strong senior year academic performance was the best predictor of my success as a college student, not my GPA. Then on May 3, Vanderbilt called and offered me a place off the waitlist. I started hyperventilating, thanking the counselor profusely. I sent in the deposit the next day. I was going to be a Commodore!
My ups and downs
This application process was like a roller coaster ride. I was a procrastinator. I waited until six hours before the deadline to start writing supplemental essays for some schools. I was lucky that many of my schools didn't have these supplemental essays, or had prompts that made it easy to recycle other essays. The low point was definitely my deferral from Duke. The other two Duke early decision applicants from my school were both admitted. To add insult to injury, later that week I was deferred from a match and a safety school. I had lost all hope. The high point was the call from Vanderbilt in early May. It was not only a surprise, but for the first time, I felt truly excited about college, which was a very reassuring feeling.
What I learned
I had this inescapable paranoia that I wasn't going to be accepted anywhere, so I made sure to have plenty of colleges on my list. In retrospect, my time would have been better spent writing stronger supplemental essays for the schools I was really interested in, instead of rushing to finish 17 applications on time.
You might think there is one school that is perfect for you, and no other school can suffice, but you're most likely wrong. There are so many schools out there, and many will offer very similar educations and experiences as that "one perfect school." I regret becoming so attached to Duke. I was a legacy applicant, so I'm sure my father had something to do with my attachment.
The money factor
Luckily for me, my family can afford to cover the cost. This is something I am grateful for.
Don't forget that this is a once-in-a-lifetime journey, so try to enjoy it, through all its ups and downs. Keep your options open, and believe that no matter where you go to college, you will make the most of the experience. Also, apply only to schools that you could see yourself happily attending. Here's a test: Pretend that a school is the only school you got into, and you had to attend. Would you be happy? If not, you shouldn't apply there.
ROAD TO COLLEGE
Student Stories - 2016
- Ally - Ohio State University - Class of 2016
- Emma - College of William and Mary - Class of 2016
- Jess - Binghamton University - Class of 2016
- Leyth - Pomona College - Class of 2016
- Michael - Northeastern University - Class of 2016
- Molly - Vassar College - Class of 2016
- Shaquilla - Harvard College - Class of 2016
- Tlalli - Yale University - Class of 2016
- Pablo - Amherst College - Class of 2016
- Kathleen - UC Berkeley - Class of 2016
- David - Vanderbilt University - Class of 2016
Student Stories - 2015
- Brenna - Iowa State University - Class of 2015
- Candace - U. of N. Carolina at Chapel Hill - Class of 2015
- Andrew - Penn State University Park - Class of 2015
- Nick - Georgetown University - Class of 2015
- Stephen - University of Pennsylvania - Class of 2015
- Stephanie - Stanford University - Class of 2015
- Jeremy - Boston University - Class of 2015
- Amy - Hillsdale College - Class of 2015
- Maggie - UCLA - Class of 2015
- Joseph - University of Vermont - Class of 2015
Student Stories - 2014
- Alexander - U. of Colorado Boulder - Class of 2014
- Alexandra - Indiana U. Bloomington - Class of 2014
- Gabrielle - Furman University - Class of 2014
- Linda - Grinnell College - Class of 2014
- Mario - Cal Poly Pomona - Class of 2014
- Matt - Carleton College - Class of 2014
- Michael - University of Maryland - Class of 2014
- Monica - Hiram College - Class of 2014
- Obianujo - The College of New Jersey - Class of 2014
- Philip - American University - Class of 2014
- Leslie - Wesleyan University - Class of 2014
Student Stories - 2013
- Jessica - Wellesley College - Class of 2013
- Jason - Univ. of Michigan - Class of 2013
- Daniel - Yale University - Class of 2013
- Melanie - Colby College - Class of 2013
- Anthony - University of Pittsburgh - Class of 2013
- Claire - Johns Hopkins University - Class of 2013
- David - University of Chicago - Class of 2013
- Eric - UC San Diego - Class of 2013
- John - Pomona College - Class of 2013
- Umbar - Cornell University - Class of 2013
- Kira - Swarthmore College - Class of 2013
- Joelle - Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison - Class of 2013
- Mark - Union College - Class of 2013
- Uddit - U.S. Air Force Academy - Class of 2013
- Julia - University of Florida - Class of 2013
- Justin - University of Georgia - Class of 2013
- Stacy - Cal Poly San Luis Obispo - Class of 2013
- Briton - Hobart College - Class of 2013
Student Stories - 2012
- Roy - Calif. Maritime Acad. / UC Irvine - Class of 2012
- Kirsten - Chapman / UC Davis - Class of 2012
- Ashley - Mount Holyoke College - Class of 2012
- Marquis - Princeton University - Class of 2012
- Pauline - Seattle University - Class of 2012
- Sundiata - Univ. of Mass. Amherst - Class of 2012
- James - Villanova University - Class of 2012
Student Stories - 2011
Student Stories - 2010
- Daniela - Bates College - Class of 2010
- Renata - Brown University - Class of 2010
- Megan - Denison University - Class of 2010
- Catlin - Harvard College - Class of 2010
- Catherine - Reed College - Class of 2010
- Matthew - Syracuse University - Class of 2010
- Danielle - UCLA - Class of 2010
- Stephanie - University of Illinois - Class of 2010
- Sam - University of Washington - Class of 2010
- Jeffrey - Washington and Lee Univ. - Class of 2010
Student Stories - 2009
Live Well and Prosper
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